Sudden Student Cancellation (All Teachers)

  • Sudden Student Cancellation (All Teachers)

  • Eliza Jane Fyfe

    October 9, 2018 at 10:28 am

    So I can’t help but feel quite upset about what happened on Saturday. I’ve been teaching 2 lovely kids, a brother and sister, for a year now. They alternate lessons and therefore haven’t cancelled due to illness, because if one is ill, the other one comes instead. But on Saturday, they were both ill and the mum cancelled just before the lesson. Her first cancelled lesson, which was charged, as per the terms she was told about upon her first booking. Here is the exchange of conversation following my assistant’s payment prompt:


    I hope you are having a great evening, just a quick reminder to make a payment for the lessons.

    The payment of £130 will cover the lesson that was cancelled on the 26th of September as well as next 3 lessons Child 1 and Child 2 have got planned on the 6th, 13th and 20th of October.

    Just a note that bank details are:

    Thanks very much and have a great week!

    Kind Regards,


    Sorry. I am not paying for a cancelled lesson.



    I thought you were aware of the cancellation policy – usually it’s in the first invoice when the first lesson is booked. All lessons have to be cancelled within 48 hours’ regardless of illness I’m afraid.

    Let me know if this is okay,



    No problem. Child 1 and Child 2 will not be having any more lessons.



    I am very sorry to hear that. This policy is in place due to the nature of my business; my income is solely reliant upon regular lessons – I also lose money when I’m ill, so I believe it to be a fair system which has always worked well and has been understood by all clients in the 5 years I’ve been running the business. I am sorry this doesn’t work for you and that you weren’t aware of this. It’s a shame if this means Child 1 and Child 2 have to stop lessons as they are really coming on well and I was looking forward to Child 1’s showcase performance.


    Because she made this decision a day before their next scheduled lesson, she owes for this lesson as well. I emailed her the following morning:


    Please note that payment is still required for today.




    The kids are great and I’ve never had a problem with the mum until this cold exchange and total refusal to converse further, and ultimately, pay the £65 that is now owed. I know I need to just let it go but it’s massively disappointing when I was invested in the kids’ progress and the parent has completely taken the opportunity away from them due to a policy which I feel is totally fair. Is she just going to go from scratch with a totally new teacher, who will be more flexible, or even less committed?

  • Matthew Rusk

    October 9, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Hi Eliza,

    Thanks for the post (I have made a few edits for privacy). Often exchanges like this are less to do with a singular incident, for example, a lesson cancellation non-payment, but rather an underlying desire to perhaps stop lessons – might be financial, time-commitment, travel etc. But sometimes the reason given is an excuse to stop lessons, rather than the reason that caused the lessons to stop.

    You are right to enforce your cancellation policy, however, it can cause students to drop away like this. You never know how people will react & from time to time giving some flexibility can help retain long-term students. Hopefully this helps a little.

    Kind regards,


  • Eliza Jane Fyfe

    October 9, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Thanks Matthew (sorry about not disguising names!) that’s good advice – I didn’t get a chance to let her off though as she was so abrupt and final!

  • Mark Palmer

    October 10, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Hey all,

    Over the last 12 years I’ve had similar experiences to you Eliza and I can empathise.

    The push and pull of sticking by your policy/giving them a pass… If you don’t charge the first time it happens are you setting them up to expect the same the next time?

    Ive tried various methods, and its particularly stressful when you have made it completely clear when they began lessons of your cancellation policy.

    One method ive used over the years is the first time pass. This is an opportunity to show a kindness but with total clarity of your payment policy no matter what the circumstance after the first incident. If the student really does want to continue they’ll appreciate you showing compassion(and will remember it in coming times too) but most importantly is punctuated by reminding them of your policy going forward. In all its very reasonable, and puts you, the teacher in a strong position in any other following recurrences.

    In the event of someone stopping lessons in any case…To echo what Matt mentioned, often people jump on these situations as a way of stopping lessons, for reasons that are likely unrelated to the performance of the teacher…e.g. Money/child not practising/stopping lessons as poor behaviour in other areas of their life!!

    Its hard not to take it to heart, I always remind myself I don’t want to deal with/teach people who aren’t willing to show respect for my time and income, hence making room for another student who will.

    I hope it works out


  • Eliza Jane Fyfe

    October 10, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks so much for your response – that really helps and makes sense!

  • Phil Schneider

    November 1, 2018 at 6:20 am

    If you think the attitude is rottten tell them the debt will remain on file.Small claims court or at least the threat of legal action may change their perspective.You need signed paper work to show they agreed to the cancel policy. Write it off as bad debt in your accounts. You need to factor non payment into your business model

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